Aussie retailers failing to retain key staff: Survey

Less than half of Australia’s retail employees believe their organisation successfully retains its most talented people, new data shows, suggesting retailers are failing to provide staff incentives.


Mercer’s What’s Working survey is based on the responses of 1,000 employees across a range of sectors but focuses primarily on retail.


Only 41.9% of respondents from the retail sector believe their organisation does a good job of retaining its most talented people.


Meanwhile, of the 70.9% of respondents who hold a non-management position, less than half feel their manager plays an active role in their personal career development.


Rob Bebbington, Mercer’s human capital business leader for Australia and New Zealand, says struggling retailers are failing to appreciate their key selling point: customer service.


“Happy staff means happy customers,” Bebbington says.


“Without properly engaging with current workers and providing employees with adequate career opportunities, any hope for growth will be thwarted by disengagement and apathy.”


[This] will ultimately impact [a] retailer’s bottom line… Failing to engage with workers and provide adequate motivation at work is a risk most retailers cannot afford to take.”


“To combat this growing issue, employers need to understand what motivates their workforce and apply a strategy that incorporates innovative ideas to help improve… productivity.”


The survey reveals less than half of the respondents have taken part in a formal review in the past 12 months.


Furthermore, more than half (52%) don’t feel senior management is confronting issues before they become major problems, and 49.8% don’t trust management to communicate honestly.


Retail employers are also failing to provide appropriate benefits to women. 84.1% of employees are unhappy with childcare support and 83.3% are dissatisfied with employee assistance plans.


“A lack of support and career development opportunities for female workers in this sector poses significant challenges for those looking for the next generation of female leaders,” Bebbington says.


But with Christmas just around the corner, bigger sales targets will only increase pressure on employees to perform. Bebbington offers retail employers the following tips to motivate staff:

  • Ask employees for suggestions.

Let them comment anonymously through a suggestion box. Read employee suggestions regularly, and implement any logical ideas the company can afford.

  • Cross-train.

Help to develop the skills of all employees and raise engagement within the organisation.


Workers may feel more enthusiastic towards their role or decide to utilise these new skills for an alternative position within the organisation, increasing staff retention.

  • Find ways to reward employees through recognition.


Make this meaningful by adding an extra day off, a gift certificate or an inexpensive gift.


  • Present company challenges publicly when possible.


Help to improve internal communication and allow workers the opportunity to suggest potential solutions.


  • Provide all employees with regular feedback.


This should include job performance, providing an opportunity to self-critique areas for improvement.


By allowing employees to set individual goals, organisations will see an increase in their motivation to achieve them.


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